The isolated perfused equine distal limb as an ex vivo model for pharmacokinetic studies


Maren Friebe, Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmacy, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bünteweg 17, 30559 Hannover, Germany. E-mail:


Even though intra-articular injections play an important role in the treatment of joint-related lameness in horses, little is known about pharmacokinetic properties of substances used. Therefore, an ex vivo model for pharmacokinetic studies was developed using distal forelimbs of slaughtered horses. The extremity was perfused with gassed Tyrode solution for up to 8 h. Tissue viability was confirmed by measurements of glucose consumption, lactate production, and lactate dehydrogenase activity in the perfusate. Standard criteria for tissue viability had been determined in preliminary experiments (n = 11), which also included histological examinations of the joint capsule. As the model's first implementation, the articular efflux rate of betamethasone (BM), administered as BM disodium phosphate intra-articularly to the fetlock joint (4 mg BM/joint), was investigated. The concentration of BM in the venous perfusate of the radial vein was measured by means of high-performance liquid chromatography. The average BM efflux rate per minute was calculated to be 5.1 μg/min with values ranging from 9 μg/min to 2.9 μg/min. 7.5 h after i.a. application, 2.3 mg BM had left the joint via the radial vein. Using this inexpensive setup, the presented model allows studying a variety of pharmacological topics without the ethical limitations of animal studies.